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Here's a brief look at the Sony DT 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 zoom lens.  Scroll down for the review.

Lens

SAL18200  Sony DT 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 zoom lens

Box contents

Front and rear caps, hood and users manual.

Cost

$548 retail. 

Build quality

Average to good

Additional information

Plastic lens mount.  Optically identical to the Konica Minolta 18-200mm. 

Specifications below

 

Optical configuration

15 elements in 13 groups

Angle of view

76°-8° APS-C.

Aperture

7 blades, circular

Full frame and APS-C

APS-C only, 35mm equivalent, 27-300mm.  Will work on full frame where you'll get full coverage from 100-200mm at infinity focus, but APS-C size capt. will auto crop image on A900.

Depth of field and focus scales?

Distance scale only

Minimum focus, image plane to subject

18"  (457mm)

Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject

8.3"  (211mm)

Hard stop at infinity focus?

No

Length changes when focusing?

No

Focus ring turns in AF?

Yes

Filter size

62mm

Filter ring rotates?

No

Distance encoder?

Yes

Max magnification

0.27x

Min. F/stop

F/22-40  

Sony teleconverter compatible?

No

Length changes when zooming?

Yes

Dimensions W x L (my measurements)

2.9" x 3.4"   73mm x 86mm 

Maximum  extended length (my measurements)

5.95"  (151mm)                                                      

Weight bare (my scale)

14.1oz  (401g)  15.1oz (428g) with caps


Requisite product shots.

Aug08/18200box2.jpg
Box and contents

Aug08/18200sdex2.jpg
Side shot, fully extended

Aug08/18200bk2.jpg
Rear shot, note plastic lens mount

Aug08/18200ft2.jpg
Front view

october08/s18200lensdata.jpg
X-ray view, Sony screen grab.

2012/s18200mtf.jpg
Sony MTF chart

 
 
The Sony A700 was used for this review.  For a better understanding of my review methods and terminology, go here.
 
The Sony 18-200mm is a rebadged Konica Minolta lens that came out in 2005.  It's about the same size as the newer Sony 18-250mm, 16-105mm and CZ 16-80mm.  The Sony 18-200mm looks to be made mostly of plastic, and has a plastic mount, surprising for a $500 lens.  It has no zoom lock, but it could use one, like the 18-250mm.  It says made in Japan.  Build quality is about average.  It has a rubber ribbed grip area around the zoom and focus rings, typical for Sony lenses.  The lens has the focus distance marks (white and orange numbers) with the standard FT/M.  The focal length index marks are at 18mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 100mm, 135mm, and 200mm.  The EXIF data matches the marks on the lens.  This lens is for APS-C size sensor cameras, and is not designed for film or full frame cameras, but will work in crop mode using full frame cameras.   
 
This lens focuses a little slow at all focal lengths, but it's accurate with the A700.  It likes to focus in "steps" mostly at the long end, just like the 18-250mm.  That's normal with this type of lens.  The manual focus ring is not the best, it only takes about 1/6 of a turn from close to infinity focus, plus it makes the usual gear noise which isn't so pleasant.  Sharp focus is tough as the ring has a little play in it so it's easy to overshoot your in-focus area.  In everyday use, set to AF, it's pretty good though. 

 

Aperture/focal length guide for the Sony 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3  This lens has one set of overlapping numbers, at 50mm you can get F/4, or F/4.5, depending on tiny movements of the zoom ring, this is quite common.  This lens stops down the aperture a little quicker along the zoom than the Sony 18-250mm.  Look below for guide.

 

Maximum aperture

F/3.5

F/4

F/4.5

F/5

F/5.6

F/6.3

Range

18mm-22mm

24mm - 30mm

35mm - 50mm

50mm - 60mm

70mm - 105mm

120mm - 200mm


Flare and ghosting.  The lens glass is close to the end of the barrel.  Flare and ghosting are a problem from 18mm to around 35mm.  Look for some green and red ghosts with the sun in the frame, see small image below.  With the sun centered, no problems other than a vertical sun spike, at the wide end, just visible in the sample below.  This lens is a little better, but not much, at controlling flare and ghosting than the 18-250mm.  The lens comes with a petal type hood, which is pretty small.  It works ok, but doesn't eliminate all problems.  Use your hand for best control of flare/ghosting when the sun is outside the frame.  I don't normally use hoods, but you may as well use it if you have it, it will help some.  On a side note; if you lose the hood to this lens, it'll cost you $25 to replace it.  The hoods from the 18-200mm, and 18-250mm are not interchangeable; go figure!
 
This lens is multi-coated and has the mild green/amber/magenta look and it appears to be about the same as other similar lenses from Sony.  
 
Filter size.  62mm.  Other Sony lenses using this size are: 70-300mm G, CZ 16-80mm, 16-105mm, 24-105mm and the 18-250mm.
 
Filter use.  There's no additional vignetting using regular filters on this lens. 
 
Coma.  Light at 18mm-50mm, with a wide open aperture, one stop down and it's mostly gone. 
 
Color.  Looks the same as other Sony lenses.
 
Color fringing control is about average to below average on this type of lens, It's mostly noticeable at the end of the zoom, just like the 18-250mm lens.  Stopping it down makes it worse at 200mm because of soft shots at F/6.3, where color fringing can hide itself, stopped down to F/11 where things are pretty sharp it's more noticeable, and magenta is the dominate color.   Check the corner shots below.  You'll have to look hard to see it on wide angle shots, but it is noticeable at 100%, here look for red and green.  In the centers towards the end of the zoom, you'll find some color fringing, and stopping down does get rid of it, but only in the centers.  See crops farther down.  All this stuff doesn't really come into play unless you're shooting telephoto and/or looking at your pictures at huge sizes.
 
Distortion below. 
 

Aug08/18200brl2.jpg
Strong barrel distortion at 18mm
Aug08/sal18200pin2.jpg
Pincushion at 200mm


Barrel and pincushion distortion.
  The distortion at 18mm is fairly strong, but less than the 18-250mm.  At 24mm it's flat, from then on pincushion sets in and stays for the duration.  I would describe the distortion on this lens as strong at 18mm, and moderate pincushion as you extend the zoom.  The overall distortion produced by this lens is less severe than on the Sony 18-250mm.

Lens Bokeh.  The Sony 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 doesn't have a very appealing bokeh in my opinion, it's the same as the 18-250mm, a little harsh or "busy" looking.   See sample crops below.

light fall-off (directly below) looks moderate at 18mm and F/3.5, then clears up a stop down or so.  It's light by 50mm, then mild to nothing past 70mm.  This lens performed nearly identical to the Sony 18-250mm in this category. 
 

 
light fall-off below.

 

    18mm @ F/3.5

  18mm @ F/5.6
           

october08/s18200vigw35.jpg

october08/s18200vigw56.jpg

    200mm @ F/6.3

  200mm @ F/8
           

october08/s18200vigtel63.jpg

october08/s18200vigtel80.jpg

 

Random shots below.

 

    18mm @ F/3.5 light fall-off

  18mm @ F/5.6 ghosting

october08/18200lfover2.jpg

october08/18200ghst2.jpg

    18mm @ F/3.5 bokeh

  18mm @ F/5.6 bokeh

october08/s18200bokw35.jpg

october08/s18200bokw56.jpg

    200mm @ F/6.3 bokeh

  200mm @ F/8 bokeh

october08/s18200boktel63.jpg

october08/s18200boktel80.jpg

    18mm @ F/3.5 coma

  18mm @ F/5 coma

october08/18200cma35.jpg

october08/18200cma5.jpg


The top left shot shows light fall-off, and how it's hardly noticeable in real shots, as opposed to the grey cards.  On the right is some ghosting, and typical in what you'll get when you shoot with the sun in the image.  Sometimes a busy background will hide this stuff.  Bokeh, middle crops, looks a little harsh, but typical for a super-zoom, and also no better, or worse than the 18-70mm kit lens.  The bottom crops show coma, which is light, but goes all the way up around 50mm using the maximum aperture for that length, also see some light streaks, I'm not sure what the cause of this is.  It's not very common.  This stuff doesn't show up in regular sized pictures, I've deliberately tried to get the worst shot to show you how the lens performs under various conditions.
 
Corner softness, 18mm.  See cropped images below.
 

    18mm @ F/3.5

  18mm @ F/5.6
           

Aug08/1820035cn.jpg

Aug08/1820056cn.jpg

   18mm @ F/8

  18mm @ F/11  
           

Aug08/1820080cn.jpg

Aug08/1820011cn.jpg

 

Corners at 200mm 

 

    200mm @ F/6.3

  200mm @ F/11

Aug08/18200lcn63.jpg

Aug08/18200lcn11.jpg


The corners from 18mm-50mm are very soft.  I takes about two stops down (F/8) to sharpen up.  This lens is much softer in the corners at F/3.5 than the Sony 18-250mm. 
 
The corners at the long end are really not much different from the centers, soft at F/6.3, a little sharper at F/8, and the sharpest at F/11.  Check out the color fringing in the shots directly above.  In normal telephoto shots, it's hard to tell the difference in sharpness between F/8 and F/11 in the centers or corners.  If you like taking pictures of test charts and stamps, you definitely need to stop down to F/11-16 at full zoom.

Center samples next.
 

 

                                    18mm centers below

F/3.5

s1835cp.jpg

F/5.6

s1856cp.jpg

F/8

s1880cp.jpg


The 18mm wide end is a little dull at F/3.5, but sharpens up nicely at F/5.6, F/8 is the same, then diffraction softens the F/11 image (not shown).  I think the 18-250mm is a little sharper at F/3.5, 18mm.  
   
200mm centers below 
 

 

                                  200mm centers below

F/6.3

sal1820063ctr.jpg

F/8

sal1820080ctr.jpg

F/11

sal1820011ctr.jpg

 

Examples of center CA below. 

 

    200mm @ F/6.3

 200mm @ F/11

Aug08/18200lctr63.jpg

Aug08/18200lctr11.jpg


In the top crops, you can see improvements in sharpness by stopping down the lens to F/11, just make sure you watch your shutter speeds.  This is a 300 meter shot, where atmospheric conditions can wreak havoc on fine details.  The F/6.3 image is a little soft at 200mm, at F/8 it's better, with F/11 as the sharpest aperture.  There isn't a huge difference, but it's worth pointing out.  The second block of crops are from the center too, and show how the CA disappears as you stop down, but only in the central region, it stays the same or gets worse along the periphery.  See the Sony 18-250mm for examples.
 
Below, you'll see the difference in coverage between the 18-200mm lens at 200mm, and the 18-250mm lens at 250mm. 
 

Aug08/18250200.jpg
200mm, 300mm equivalent.
Aug08/18250250.jpg
250mm, 375mm equivalent.


Check out the macro shot.

Below, check out the sample and click the picture to see a 100% cropped portion of the full image, (315kb).  The sample shot was taken with the Sony A700 12.2MP camera.  The subject is a standard US stamp, 1"x 3/4" or 25.4mm x 19mm.  Also, note the macro shot was taken as close to the subject as focusing allowed; In this case, 9.9" or 251mm, measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.

This lens has the same macro issue as the Sony 18-250mm, it isn't very sharp until you stop down to F/10-11, the shot below was taken at F/14, though it looks pretty much the same at F/11.  It has a maximum magnification of 0.27x, slightly smaller than the 0.29x 18-250mm, but they look the same to me.  Still, a decent looking shot of a small item with a lot of detail.
 

Aug08/1820025mac2.jpg
Closest macro shot, F/14. 315kb


Conclusion

This lens does a decent job for the price.  With a "kit" purchase you can get the Sony 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 for around $300, and that's a good deal.  If you purchase it at full retail, $548, it's not such a good deal.  Read more below.
 
The little 18-200mm zoom performs much the same as the Sony 18-250mm, but it isn't the same or better.  The 18-200mm has better control of distortion, but not by much.  Light fall-off is about the same, color fringing is equal, and sharpness is the same except the corners and centers, at wide angle (18-50mm) and F/3.5-4.5 where the 18-250mm is slightly better .  If you got this in a "kit," I'd forget about buying the Sony 18-250mm.  If you're thinking of one or the other and aren't worried about price, get the Sony 18-250mm for $100 more, this lens has a metal mount, a zoom lock and a little more reach.